Gold Daughters of Fairbanks, Alaska Are Sisters Who Founded A Gold Panning Business.
The Gold Daughters, Fairbanks Alaska, National Geographic , Fairbanks Gold Company
MRV: The Buzz, Your Outdoor Lifestyle Insider, Written By: Andrew Malo
Women WIth A POCKET Full Of Gold
Ilaura & Jordan Reeves Have Gold In Their Blood And Share What They've Learned To Through Gold-Panning Business Called The Gold Daughters
When talking to the Gold Daughters of Fairbanks, Alaska, it becomes apparent very early that their focus is their customers. "We always want to stay true to our roots," explains Ilaura Reeves, one of the Gold Daughters, "we are not interested in becoming too commercial."
Ilaura and her sister, Jordan, formed Gold Daughters in 2014. They are the Gold Daughters, but what exactly is the Gold Daughters business? On their website, there is a simple explanation, "Find Gold Nuggets. Pan All Day. Play Outside." They guarantee a visitor will find gold and make sure visitors have a relaxing and welcoming time doing so. "Panning is very relaxing, but it can be strenuous squatting all day by a river," Ilaura explains, “So we provide comforts, like benches, to make it as enjoyable as it can be.”
"We want to make sure they have a good time," Ilaura says, "so we do our best to make sure everyone feels unique and we give them an ear to tell about their trip." Ilaura and Jordan say that people do not come to Alaska on accident, it is too far and too extreme for that, people come because it is a dream vacation. "The coolest part is meeting these people from all over the world and hearing their stories," Jordan explains.
Jordan and Ilaura also have a story to share about their history. They didn't just start Gold Daughters on a whim; gold is in their blood. Their father, John Reeves, hitchhiked his way up to Alaska from Florida in the 80s, bought an old dredge and turned it into a tourist attraction, and today is the largest private landowner in Alaska. Ilaura and Jordan, along with their three siblings, were born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska and have been panning for gold since they were young. "Our dad would take us everywhere and have us pan," Ilaura recalls, "even at family BBQ's we would have our gold pans with us."
Growing up in Fairbanks, Alaska, the coldest city in North America, was interesting and really just "normal to us because we didn't know any different," Jordan explains. Most of the winter it is dark and temperatures are always below freezing, however “it is a very tight knit community and everyone genuinely cares about each other,” Ilaura says. Jordan and Ilaura both went away to college – one in Oregon and one in Florida – and that is when they realized that the rest of the world lives life completely different than Alaskans. They enjoy their time in the lower 48, but miss the culture of Alaska. When they would come back for summers, “we didn’t really have career ideas, so decided to try Gold Daughters,” Ilaura says.
The family is famous for gold panning from John's business activities (he owns Fairbanks Gold Company), as well as a 2012 National Geographic show featuring the Reeves’ called "Goldfathers." "During the show, we kept logs of claims that we found on private land, as well as public," Ilaura explains, "the show cut out a lot of the claims, but these are the places we get our pay dirt from." Pay dirt is dirt that contains significant amount of gold that is worth extracting. This is the dirt that is panned at Gold Daughters and why there is a guarantee of a find.
As for panning itself, Ilaura and Jordan both say it is a very peaceful activity. “It is a goofy thing to be into,” Jordan chuckles, “but we didn’t realize how popular it is in Fairbanks until we started this.” They explain there is a group of local prospectors who go on outings together and look for gold. “It is a nice way to pass time outside,” Ilaura says, “It is like doing a puzzle or fishing.”
The Gold Daughters say that a lot of locals who have high stress jobs will come and pan to relax regularly and, of course, a lot of tourists from many different backgrounds. There are RVers, small tour groups, families, couples, and just about every other type of person that comes through. “Some want to pan for 5 minutes and find gold and others just want to pan all day,” Ilaura says, “We try our best to figure out what people want to do at Gold Daughters, whether it be share stories, relax, or just find gold, and we help them do that.”
People from all over the world come to Alaska. And if they happen in Fairbanks, visiting the Gold Daughters will give them a chance to take home a real souvenir and friendly interactions to always remember their time in the Last Frontier.
A graduate of Northeastern Illinois University in Education, Andrew has taught for the past decade in Chicago, New Mexico, and Japan. He enjoys tinkering with trucks and motorcycles, woodworking, reading and computer programming.
Make Sure To Stay At:
Granite Tors Trail Campground, which accommodates all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts, from tent campers to those with deluxe recreational vehicles. Tors Trailhead is in the campground. Remote cabins are available as additional options.